You Got Me, Under Your Skin.

It had been a tumultuous last few weeks for Fluke. First had been that business with the  sheep, then those disgusting slimy snails and then, well, the less said about living in a disgusting half drowned field the better; but all that was in the past now and things were looking up. Fluke took a deep breath and let it out slowly, in the end it had all been worth it after all the blood sweat and tears here he was in his very own home for the first time. It was a bloody marvellous wee place too, not so much a step up from that bloody field it was more of a giant leap. Out there is was cold and wet and dull, in here is was warm, and safe with he owed it all to Laura, the love of his life. She didn’t know it yet but she was going to have his babies, it was going to be beautiful…


Laura looked at herself in the mirror and smiled. “Girl you look, a-maze-ing!” she cooed turning to the side and lifting her shirt to show off her flat stomach. She’d always been a  bit… on the more robust end of the spectrum but ever since she started shopping at Tree Huggers the new organic, vegan place those extra pounds had just flown off. It was an honest to goodness miracle. “Today is going to be a good day,” she said taking one last look at herself in the mirror before grabbing her coat and heading out the door.
She had just ducked into Starbucks to grab her morning cup o’ Joe when she caught a glimpse of him out of the corner of her eye and stopped dead in the middle store. ‘Wow! He.Is.Gorgeous!’ she  thought. Tall and slim with Short blonde hair and piercing blue eyes, she actually felt her knees go weak for a second and had to steady herself on a table. Their eyes connected, he smiled and Laura felt the electricity from across the room. ‘Play ti cool Laura, play it cool,’ she thought shooting him a smile then forcing herself to look away and grab her coffee. Caffè Latte to go, she told the barista who nodded took her cash and handed her a cardboard cup full of warm, caffeiney goodness. She turned and cast a surreptitious  glance to the table in the corner where her mystery man was but the table was empty.
“Damnit,” she cursed under her breath heading for the door; she was just reaching for the handle when the door opened as if by magic.
“Allow me,” said the beautiful stranger holding the door open for her. Laura looked into those piercing blue eyes and fell head over heels in love.
“It’s rainin’ but there ain’t a cloud in the sky
Musta been a tear from your eye
Everything’ll be okay
Funny thought I felt a sweet summer breeze
Musta been you sighin’ so deep
Don’t worry we’re gonna find a way
I’m waitin’, waitin’ on a sunny day
Gonna chase the clouds away
Waitin’ on a sunny day”
Ever since his chance meeting with Laura, Fluke had been in dreamland. It had gone better than he could have possibly imagined, she was perfect for him keeping him fed, watered and loved; and he liked to think he’d been good for her too. It was the first time that Fluke had really made a connection with a woman and he felt alive like never before. she was definitely the woman he wanted to have his babies he knew it now for sure.
“I’m telling you he is gorgeous, with a capital g. In fact two capital g’s, two capital o’s and capital a r,e,u and s too. GORGEOUS!” enthused Laura. “I can’t believe we met totally by accident, it’s fate! I tell you, we’re going to get married, live in a big house with a dog and two kids and it is going to be perfect.”
“You don’t believe in fate,” said Anshu waving a forkful of chilli paneer. “Besides you’ve only known him two weeks our in the honeymoon stage you can’t says he’s perfect until his guard comes down and he starts farting in front of you; that’s the test.”
Laura bit her lip. “I suppose you’re right but right now he is kind, funny and adorable and that is enough. Now give me some of that paneer I’m starving.”
“Starving? You just had a sandwich, I tell you I’ve no idea how you keep the weight off with how much you eat.”
“Without you I’m workin’ with the rain fallin’ down
Half a party in a one dog town
I need you to chase the blues away
Without you I’m a drummer girl that can’t keep a beat
And ice cream truck on a deserted street
I hope that you’re coming to stay
I’m waitin’, waitin’ on a sunny day
Gonna chase the clouds away
Waitin’ on a sunny day”
Something was going wrong, Fluke could sense it. It had all been perfect now his shit is going down spidey sense was telling him that Laura was not at all happy with him. ‘Come on Fluke old boy,’ he thought to himself. ‘You’ve got to up your game here. We can’t lose the love of your life just because you made her…”
“Just piss off and leave me alone,” groaned Laura through the bathroom door wiping the vomit from the corner of her mouth. “I thought you could bloody cook?”
“I’m sorry babe, I had the same thing and I feel fine. Are you sure you’re not allergic?”
“To your cooking maybe, urgh, Jesus; what the hell was in that stuff my stomach is killing me.”
“Maybe I put too much Chilli in this time?”
“I’ll put too much…” Laura cut off and stuck her head back in the bowl. A agonizing minute later her head popped back out. “Just go home, It think you’ve done enough for one day don’t you?”
“Hard times baby, well they come to tell us all,
Sure as the tickin’ of the clock on the wall.
Sure as the turnin’ of the night into day,
Your smile girl, brings the mornin’ light to my eyes.
Lifts away the blues when I rise,
I hope that you’re coming to stay”
It was over, Fluke knew that now. No chance for babies, no chance for a future it was all just fucked. Fluke knew now how he’d made Laura feel, the drugs made him feel awful like he’d been dropped into a vat of frozen acid; the viscous fire seeping in to him and melting him from the inside out. The pain wasn’t the worst thing though, that was knowing that the woman he loved, who had become his entire world had done this to him. ‘I thought you loved me like I loved you Laura,’ he thought sadly. ‘I thought we’d be together forever.’
As the doctor dropped the lifeless body of Fluke into the big metal surgical dish by the operating table Laura felt a tear roll down her face. He might have been a parasite but he’d made her happier than she thought she could be. She could look at herself in the mirror again after years of hating what she saw; and for that she would always love him, even though he nearly killed her.
The End.
For the record I’ve no idea why that song made me think up this story but once it came up nothing else seemed to fit… so sorry about that! Picto

A mans only wish – Part 1.

The evening was cold, frost lingered in the air of the small harbour in Whitby. People began to form a party as crew and equipment were loaded onto a small vessel. A fair lady in the party was being guided across the gangway by the gentle and supporting hand of the tall timid looking gentleman; neither of them appeared to have any involvement with the crew, passengers travelling in their own world with only eyes for each other. Abraham, the captain for this journey was stood on deck barking orders at the men carrying supplies, preparing to travel for months at a time.

Wilhelmina Murray Harker was stood looking out across the water towards the horizon, brows drawn together with stress as her skirts stirred in the breeze. Her fair hair was dull, having lost all of its shine despite it being the height of summer. Looking closely you could see darker circles under her hazel eyes, once kind but now just distant. Above her collar just below her chin you could see two small scars, an inch apart beginning to fade and turn white from pink. Her hand absently touched them gently as the tall gentleman approached her, making a concerted effort not to startle her with his appearance.

“Are you sure you should be doing this Mina” his tired grey blue eyes searching her face for any hint of regret.

“Jonathan, there is no other way to find him to end this misery. I cannot bear watching this eat away at you, whilst I stand back and he has all of the control” her voice was tender as she turned to face him. Her slim fingers brushed away a stray curl that fell into his eyes.

“I would not be doing this if I did not think myself capable or up to the task at hand. I never lied when I said I love you. I took a vow to love, honour, cherish and protect, forsaking all others
and holding only to you for-evermore, both in sickness and in health. I can use this link to locate and distract him long enough for Abraham and his men to rid the world of this demon forever. Only then can we be truly happy. Let me do this Jonathan, out of love, out of duty and for our future children.” Mina finished, a single tear tracking its way down the hollows of her cheek. She searched his eyes for a trace of understanding, her hand still lingering on his cheek. Taking her hand in both of his, Jonathan kissed it lightly as if she were made of the finest china before tucking it into the crook of his elbow, leading her towards the cabin as dusk crept upon them.


The voyage was long and the Harkers and Abraham Van Helsing remained in their quarters below deck, out of the prying eyes of the crew. Mina’s health seemed to deteriorate the further out to sea they became, appetite decreasing; cheek bones emphasised by her pale complexion.

Abraham’s firm knock echoed in the small corridor, muffled only by the footsteps of the men at work above them. A slender face peered around the door, revealing Jonathan’s slight frame once opened fully. Instead of waiting for an invitation, Van Helsing walked straight into the centre of the room before gazing upon Wilhelmina at the small dressing table to his right.

“How are you feeling Are you losing appetite yet” his deep voice rough and demanding. Without asking for permission he sat on the edge of the bed and took a notebook and pencil from his jacket, turning pages aggressively, as if it were the last thing he wanted to do.

“Mr Van Helsing that is no way to address my wife! I demand you apologise for your abrasiveness at once or you may take your leave.” Jonathan objected, his hand protectively perched on her shoulder. With a sudden jerk as if she were on fire, Mina swiped away his hand.

“And how dare you speak for me! Abraham, I do apologise for my husband’s behaviour it is quite brash and unforgivable to speak that way to a friend.” Before Jonathan could object she raised her hand to silence him, her slender fingers looking arthritic and frail with sudden weight loss. Standing, she moved over to gaze out of the window, far way from both men as much as their tiny room could provide.

“I’m not sleeping well and cannot seem to consume food unless it is a light broth.” her voice small, vanishing into the swell of the sea outside. “I worry if we do not arrive soon, we will never catch him”

“Mina, my love, you mustn’t talk this way. It is like you have already given up! You are the reason we are in this confounded predicament in the first place. You are the one that concocted this reckless plan to trek miles across the ocean to kill him and now you are just giving up! I am ashamed yo-”

“Jonathan Harker, leave this room at once. I will not have you talk in such a manner. It is one thing to be rude to a friend but to your wife, neither I nor the Lord himself can condone such behaviour” Abraham dismissed him, his hand pushing Jonathan towards the door by his chest.

“Mina, I do not know what has got into you but you are not the woman I met. It is as if you have lost all ability to love, you have changed. Are you hiding something? Do you regret marrying me” he pleaded from the doorway, the final image he saw was her eyes, an obsidian black glowering at him before the door closed in his face.

“Abraham, how can he not see? How can he not understand that I am doing all of this for him? All I want is the married life that we should be living but instead I am chasing down monsters and living a nightmare. I cannot ta-” Mina collapsed onto the chair tears falling into her cotton gown.

“Wilhelmina I implore you, please relax. If you do not lower your blood pressure you may have an apoplexy-” Van Helsing rushed to her side, trying to get her to look him in the eye.

“-take all of the blame, he was the one that visited that dreadful man’s lai-” Before she could finish her weight toppled forward, falling into Abraham’s arms before hitting the ground. Carrying her to the cot, he lay her gently down before calling for Jonathan. Mina remained in this state for three days without ever stirring from her dream like coma.

I Never Won (‘Til You Blew In)-Inspired by White Buffalo’s “Love Song #1”

Pfffffffft. Pfft. Pft. What is that? Pffft. It’s –hack- sand? Sand! I’m alive! Holy crap! I’m –hack hack- alive! I’m on land I made it I’m not dead oh Christ I’m not dead ah ha ha ha HA FUCK YOU DEATH AND THE HORSE YOU RODE IN ON Ah ha! Beautiful, beautiful sand! –Hack- ergh that –hack- that was a ba –hack– bad i- hack HACK– ughhhhh. Don’t –hem- kiss sand, that was a bloody stupid idea, Paddy. Christ it’s hot, where am I?


That’s a lot of sea…and not a lot of island. Great. Oh well bloody done Paddy, you’ve really fucked it now, haven’t you. “Go to New York” they said, “It’ll change your life” they said. Well no shit son, frying to death on a godforsaken island in the middle of nowhere is a big fucking change, isn’t it? Knew I shouldn’t have listened to Michael. Michael, you’re a twat.

So, where’s the plane?

Oh. There’s the plane. Erm. I guess I…I mean, do I salute? I probably should, yeah.

Thanks a bunch, Ryan Air. Fucking nailed it.

Okay, so what do I do? Find water. Yeah, that’s good. Good plan, uhm…right. You’ve seen Bear Grylls, can’t drink sea water. You’ve got to make natural cups out of leaves and stuff, collect the water when it rains. Then you’ve got to make a hut, off the floor, like, so the nasties don’t get to your bits. Next…next is…sharpen some wood, make a spear, catch some fish, make a fire with, like, all the fibres. Yeah, the fibres and dry wood. So I need…I need…I need to go into the forest! Make cups out of coconuts, wood for shelter, and Bob’s your uncle! Ah ha! Thank you, Bear! I take it back, Channel 4 aren’t just traitors who snatched Bake Off from the BBC! Ah ha ha ha ha HA! Right, let’s venture into the forest!

One tree.

I’m so fucked.

12 minutes later.

My…my…MY Delilah
– diddle diddle dee-
I could see that girl was no good for me
But I was lost like a slave that no man could free
At break of day when that man drove a- ARGH!

What’s that! What is this?

It’s…a page from a newspaper. It’s…

Oh bloody marvellous, it’s the Sun.

FANTASTIC. I’m STUCK on an island with page three as my last ever reading material. I knew there was no God, and if there is he’s not fucking merciful ARE YOU, YOU PRICK? The Sun… what orphanage did I torch in a past life to deserve this?! The Mirror. The Guardian. Bleedin’ Cosmo! Not this…this…this…

Well. I did like Pamela Anderson… Thought her performance in Baywatch was very- ahem- formidable. I suppose…if I’m going to burn to death- thank you MICHAEL- I might as well have one last… hoorah.

1 minute later.

Christ, that chaffs.

1 gust of wind later.

No no no no! Pfft! Hack- HACK- hack! Fuckin’ no, nooo… -sniff- euh heuh heuhhhhhh -sniff- why me…why me he he he heeee…

Wait. What’s that?

Is that…

It can’t be…

It is! It is! That’s a person! Oh great, I don’t even get to die alone. How embarrassing. I guess I probably should… sigh… HELLO?! HELLO!

Oh joy, they’re running over.

How did they get here? They can’t have survived the plane. They look pretty dry for a start and I would have seen them earlier, surely.


Jesus, they’re the slowest runner I’ve seen since Arnold Hopper at primary school sports day.

What are they wearing? Looks like a red…


I don’t believe it. Is that…? No…

It’s Pamela bloody Anderson.

Miss Anderson! Miss- DAMNIT the one time I meet a model I’m stuck on an island and don’t have a bloody pen- I just wanted to say that I am a HUGE fan of your work. I mean, I was blown away by your –hack– portrayal of C.J. in Baywatch and your cameo in Scary Movie 3? HIL-arious!


Really? You’re too kind, Pamela. Can I call you Pam? No, Pamela is much classier, far more accurate for a bir- woman of your calibre…


Who, me? I’m just an Analyst, me. Well, Online Systems Business Analyst, actually. If you want the full title.


 Well -heh- I was praised for the presentation of my data flow diagrams. Really put Michael out, on the odd occasion.


Yeah, he’s a knob, like. But he’s alright, his heart’s in the right place. Said I could make a bit more of myself in the States. Really go up in the world there. Not just wasting away as an Online System Business Analyst. But make it big as a SENIOR Online Systems Business Analyst. Oh yes. That’s why I’m here, actually. Heh. Was on my way there. Then there’s turbulence, a mask drops down into my microwave strogranoff and before you can say Bob’s your uncle, I’m here. Dying.


Yeah, you’re right. I should look on the bright side. And it is bloody sunny here- heh- because you said I should- ahem- sorry. I’m not too hot on- (nope, stop it.) Sorry, I’ll be honest I’m a bit flustered, what with being slow roasted and talking to a pretty girl. Not that you’re “just a pretty girl” I mean I think you’re lovely and your beauty is a bonus but not in a sexual way NOT THAT I DON’T FIND YOU SEXUALLY ATTRACTIVE I WOULD I mean that’s not the plan no no NO I didn’t mean plan I’m not planning on doing anything to you I mean WITH you I mean you’re fine and I don’t mean you’re average you’re great and you seem like a nice person and-

Oh god, just fry my brains and get on with it.

Giggle giggle.

Really? You think that?! Well I I mean I aha uh I uhm…thank you. I ah uhm like talking to you too.

10 minutes later.

Pamela, where did you learn to cook like this? It’s better than Mario’s, and I tell you he can cook fish like an Italian God! You really are amazing, m’love.


Nah, I mean it!


Yeah! I do! And… I’m just…alright, I’ve got to do it. I’ve been saying to myself “Patrick Eamon Evans, if you don’t tell her you’re a fool”. And I am. And I’m a fool who’s never been happier. Or happy, for that matter. Pamela, when you blew into my life like… like a paper in the wind… I was nothing. Just an Online Systems Business Analyst. My data flow diagrams weren’t even that accurate. But, I dunno, you…well, you acknowledged me for a start. And you laughed- not at me but with me! I’ve never laughed so hard with anyone. Every second I have been with you- would you like some wine?- every second I’ve been with you has been full of wonder. I’ve never met a woman who talks like you, who spearfishes in heels like you. I gotta pinch myself, and yeah I mean it bloody kills, what with the severe burns and peeling. But honestly love I feel like I’m dreaming, so I do it. And I’m like “Oh. I’m with you.” I’m actually with you, Pamela, this charming, funny, talented woman. And I just wanna be your man, your friend. For ever. Pamela Anderson, I-


AHEUH heuh… I’m sorry Pamela. I think… this is it.


Don’t…-hack hack- don’t be silly! I love you, of course I would take a coconut for you -hack-


Yes, and I’d do it again. –hack HACK HACK HEURGGHHH-


I…I’m afraid so, my love. It’s…oh man I don’t feel -HEURGH hack heurgh- Ever-everythingshgettin’ a bit…hazy…


Before I…heuuhhh…before…heuhhh…hold me Pamela…heuhhh…before I go, promisss me somethin’?


Get off this island. Get outta here and go to New York for me. Take life by the balls…heuhhh… I didn’t make it, but- no no! Heuhhhhh… Listen. I didn’t make it but…you’re too good to waste. -HACK HACK HACK HACK HACK-



Thank you…

Tango Charlie Five-Zero, this is Papa Alpha Niner-Four.

I have a visual on what seems to be a stranded civilian at the crash site.

We have a clear landing.




The shakes at Ed’s Burger Joint on Route 94 are supposed to be the best for miles.  So when Owen said that’s where he wanted to go, I’m not gonna lie, I was up for seeing what all the hype was about.  Owen is Shelley’s kid, I guess you could call him my step-son but Shelley and I ain’t quite that serious yet, so when Owen said to me that he wanted to go for shakes, I knew it was a big step for us.

Shelley and I met some months back.  She works in the bar down on Mason and 9th and I knew I liked her from the second I saw her.  She was bussin’ tables after the dinner rush and I sat on this one with a tonne of empties on it.  ‘Course she comes over and starts pokin’ fun, sayin’ she ought to cut me off I’ve had that many.  For a second I thought she was serious but then she got that little twinkle in her eye that she gets and I knew she was havin’ me on.  We flirted back and forth for a good while before I plucked up the courage to ask for her number.  She’d told me about Owen before but it was a good six months before she introduced us; said she wanted to be sure I was stickin’ around.

She’s so protective of that kid, part o’why she’s so lovely, all carin’ and that, but it does show on a young boy.  He ain’t a wuss per say, he likes his baseball and got put up a group in little league, but…quiet I guess is what I’d say.  Some might say cautious, conscientious and I suppose he’s those things too but, I dunno, he likes to keep himself to himself.  That’s why when he walks into the den while Shelley and I are watching the box and announces he’d like us to go to Ed’s it was a real moment.

“Sweetie, you can’t demand stuff like that,” says Shelley
“No,” says Owen, “Eli said we could do something, my choice, I’d like to go to Ed’s and have a milkshake.”
“Eli said that did he?” Shelley looks across at me, eyebrows raised, the edges of her lips curling up into that cute, crooked smile of hers.  I flash her a look that says ‘you bet I made a connection’ before I turn to Owen.
“If Ed’s is where you wanna go then that’s what we’ll do.  You’re mom’s workin’ the lunch shift on Saturday, how about we drive up and have a bite.  A road trip, you and me, what do you say?

Owen glances over at Shelley, little boy lost.  His eyebrows knit together and his eyes seem to double in size as he pleads his mother to make this decision, but she just looks back at him.  It’s your choice boy, she ain’t makin’ it for ya.  This is what I mean.  He already built up the courage to ask, if he wants her to come with or if he’s changed his mind or whatever, just say, but no.  They just look at each other for a minute before he looks away.

“Okay,” his voice, so timid, is barely audible over the canned laughter from the TV.
“What do you say?” prompts Shelley in that voice all mothers have.
“Thank you,” he mutters before rushing back to his room.

Saturday rolls around and Shelley pushes his mop of hair out of his face before kissing him on the forehead.  She’s got her uniform on, apron and all, with a pencil stuck in her hair like she’s in the middle of takin’ orders already.  I know some look down on it but it ain’t easy waitin’ tables I can tell you that, and Shelley’s  a real natural; she works hard and remembers details about people like you won’t believe.  It’s why she gets such good tips, that and she’s quite easy on the eye but then I am biased.

“You be good now,” she calls as the screen door swings closed and I hear her turn the key in the ignition of her old pick-up.  I turn to Owen and he’s stood there lookin’ up at me like I’m some big ol’ giant or somethin’.  I pick his zip-up off of the lounger and chuck it playfully in his direction.  “Come on then kiddo, it’s gone nine, let’s hit the road!”

The car ride is silent and I can feel I’m losin’ him, so I turn on the radio.  Some pop nonsense is blarin’ from the tinny old speaker in my saloon but I resist the urge to change it.  I look over and he’s still starin’ straight ahead through the windshield and I let out a sigh.

“You like this kinda stuff?”
He listens a moment before replying, “it’s alright I guess.”
“What kinda music do you like?”
He shrugs.  A way off being a teenager but getting the language down early I see.
“You must like somethin’.  Everyone likes music.”
“I guess I like the music mom listens to.”
“What, country?”
He nods.
“Never had you pegged for a country boy but if that’s what you like.”

I turn the dial, stations merging a garbled tune until I find a country track; some woman whinin’ about her shitty childhood and whatnot.  Pretty sure most country ain’t appropriate for a kid his age but I guess he don’t understand all they’re sayin’.  The twangin’ of steel strings and liltin’ misery serenades us all the way to the diner.

Inside, the diner is shiny silver and checkerboard floors like them old ones you got in the fifties.  We slide into a booth and bury our heads in the menus.  You can tell the shakes is what they’re known for; there’s a whole page dedicated, every flavour you could think of.  We order our food and the shakes arrive with a cherry on top for that nostalgia feel.  We sip in silence for a while.

“So how’s school?”
“Alright I guess…”
“You workin’ hard?”
“Oh buddy, you don’t need to call me sir.  Remember what I said before, Eli’s just fine.”
He nods and goes back to sipping his drink.  The pink of the strawberry shake makes his skin look pale and I notice for the first time these shadows under his eyes.
“You been sleepin’ alright bud?”
He glances up at me a moment before lookin’ back down at his drink.
“If you want I can come check on you again tonight?  Make sure there are no monsters under your bed.”

He doesn’t respond, just stares at his drink.  The waitress brings our meals and as we eat I study him, hopin’ to find out what’s goin’ on.  I always said I’d never have kids but I seem to have developed a soft spot for this guy.

“If you’re scared, bud, I can come sing you that lullaby again, that helped didn’t it?  My dad always used to sing it to me.  Kinda thought it could be our thing.  Our secret thing.”

The silence hangs over us as we eat and he studies the table as I pay the bill.  In the car ride home it’s that same radio station, different singer but same sorta shit.  They’ve always been hard-done-by: lived in a trailer, poor as sin, mom on drugs, daddy touchin’ ‘em up, it all sounds the same to me.

We pull up outside the house and I stop the car a moment to get a good look at him.  I run my hand through his hair, my thumb soft across his cheek, and flashes of the other night play across my vision; the glow of the nightlight on his skin and the softness of his sheets.  My tongue instinctively darts out to wet my lips and I feel him tense under my grip.  Shelley appears in the frame of the door wipin’ her hands on a cloth, smilin’ from ear to ear; her boys are back.  I remove my hand to wave to her then lean over him to open the door.  As I get close I mutter quietly to him, “remember, it’s our little secret.”

Far Too Brief

Jack hummed under his breath as he stared at the small monitor screen, waiting for his call to connect. The tune came to him but he couldn’t quite find the words… It stirred in his memory, not quite breaking the surface… A woman’s voice, guitars, a crowd cheering… But he couldn’t quite catch hold of it.

“What are you going to say to her?”
Carrie’s voice was quiet, gentle. She’d already made her call. He looked up at his co-pilot and grinned nervously.
“I… I don’t know. But I have to try and say something.”
Carrie nodded, and then the monitor beeped at him; connection was being established. Carrie put a hand on his shoulder, gave it a squeeze and then used the contact to push herself away. She drifted forward toward the flight controls, the green-blue curve of the Earth filling much of the windshield. Giving him some privacy.

He took a deep breath and looked to the monitor, waiting. After a moment the screen flash bright white, and then after a burst of snowstorm static a picture appeared. Around the edges of the picture he could make out the visitors lounge back at Houston, back on the world below. But filling the main part of the screen… Her face. Her face, the one that had been in his mind since their one clumsy, awkward date three months ago. There had been texts, emails, the occasional phone call, but then his work had taken him away. And now here she was, hundreds of miles away but right in front of him. He did his best to smile.

The woman on the screen looked worried, even confused for a moment, but then realisation took hold of her and a look of almost wonder spread across her face.
Despite himself he grinned. Hearing her voice, even across this distance, made his heart beat faster.
“Hi Kate.”
Her face broke into a smile then, and he relaxed a little; he could guess what she had been through in the last few hours.
“Well that certainly explains a lot,” Kate said. “I was collected last night and brought here, nobody would tell me anything… Even with everything else going on in the world, it’s not exactly what I’d expect to happen. They flew me out here, and I was the only one on the plane. Then they bundle me into this room and tell me to look at the screen and wait.”
“I was allowed to request who I wanted to speak to, and well…”
“I mean, I’m flattered, but it’s like something out of a spy film!”
“I’m sorry.”

She looked at him for a moment, considering.
“So when you said you worked for NASA, you weren’t just trying to impress me?”
“No. Well, maybe I hoped you’d be a little impressed, but it was actually the truth.”
“You said you’d be out of town for a few weeks.”
“In my defence, I am out of town…”
“Where are you?”
“Technically, in Houston. Well, five hundred kilometres above it, give or take.” She grinned, delight in her eyes, and turned her head to look up. Jack felt an ache in his heart.

“When do you get back?” she asked. When he didn’t reply she looked back at the screen, her eyes worried. “Jack?” He took a deep breath.
“Kate, I can’t talk for long. So, this may not seem like the best time, or the best way to do it, but… I wanted to tell you that I really like you. I know we’ve only really just started to get to know each other, and I was a clumsy idiot when we had dinner, but… I like you a lot. You make every part of me smile.”
“Jack, I don’t…”
“I just needed to tell you, okay?” He smiled at her, trying to be reassuring and conscious of the weight that had lifted from him now he’d said it, however awkwardly. After a moment of confusion, Kate smiled back. He spoke again. “You’re aware of what’s been happening in the news?”
“The comet, you mean? Of course, it’s all over the place; it’s heading this way, but will break up when it hits the atmosphere. Should make quite the light show, they said on the news, but it’s not the end of the world.” She paused and regarded him for a moment. “That’s right, isn’t it?”
“Mostly.” The worry came back into her eyes, and she frowned. He tried to smile again, but couldn’t tell if it had worked. “If it breaks up, it should burn up as the fragments enter the atmosphere. But I’m afraid, despite what people are being told, it’s not going to break up without some help.”
“What are they going to do?” Kate asked, but he could not bring himself to answer. He just looked at her face, framed in the tiny monitor before him. She looked searchingly at him, and as understanding dawned, she closed her eyes. Jack heard a quiet cough. He glanced at Carrie, whose eyes were full of sympathy and apology. He nodded at her, telling her he understood.
“I… I have to go.”
“Now? But that’s… You can’t, I mean, we haven’t…”

Jack felt the shudder about him as Carrie fired the manoeuvring thrusters, bringing them around. At the edge of his vision he automatically registered the earth drifting out of view, but his eyes were on Kate. He was trying to drink her in, memorise every detail of her.
She broke off, perhaps unsure what it was she wanted to say. Jack took another breath and spoke, his eyes on hers.
“Look… There’s a word I haven’t used, Kate. It’s one I’m not quite ready to use yet, but… But I think I would be able to use it very soon, if only I could see you again. Does that makes sense?”
Kate’s eyes glistened with tears as she stared back at him, and though her words were barely a whisper they drifted up to him, five hundred kilometres above.
“Yes, Jack. It makes sense. And I…” She didn’t finish; she did not need to.
“It’s been amazing,” he told her, “and far too brief.” She nodded, and he smiled. The last words he spoke to her were barely a whisper.
“Goodbye Kate.”
Then he brushed his thumb across the control and broke the connection.

He settled into the seat next to Carrie, feeling strangely calm.
“Okay?” she asked him, and he nodded. “You tell her?”
“Close enough,” he said, and Carrie punched him lightly on the shoulder.
“It’s a shame we aren’t going home,” he said.
“Ain’t that the truth.”
Jack slowly held a hand out, and Carrie took it, gripping it firmly.
“It’s been an honour,” he said, and his co-pilot nodded.
“You too.”

They sat in silence for a moment, looking out of the windshield as the great mass of the comet drifted into view. They worked quickly and efficiently, preparing themselves and their ship for one last run, one that would ensure life on the world below them would continue on as ever. Their communications with Houston were as concise and efficient as ever, and in a few moments they were ready to go. Throughout these last minutes, the song he had been humming before his call to Kate began to resurface. A woman’s voice, guitars, a crowd cheering… And then a line repeated again and again… Suddenly it was there, loud in his mind, and he sighed at the absurdity of it; of all the songs to come to mind now…
“I’m just a hunk, a hunk of burning love…” It was barely a murmur, but Carrie turned to him.
“I’m sorry?”
“Nothing, Carrie,” he said, and did his best to smile. “Are we ready?”
“As we’ll ever be.”

Jack thought of the girl five hundred kilometres below who had looked up, wishing to see him as he drifted through the stars. He sighed. It had been far too brief.
“Okay then. Fire main engines in three…”




Love Is A Love Song

Is now really the best time to surprise the band with a special guest?

Five minutes before they were due to go on-stage, to biggest gig of their lives, lead singer Dana Park had sprung the news on the rest of the band. Audrey hadn’t appreciated it at the time and spent most of the gig stewing over it. She was the lead guitarist, dammit, and she didn’t need some Brit coming on for an encore to steal their thunder, no matter how popular his hit currently was. It was their first gig outside the US, at Shepard’s Bush Empire, a venue they’d always wanted to play. They wanted to make an impression for themselves, not some guy Dana knew from high-school.

I do not need any favours.

They ended the main part of the show with a crowd-pleasing cover of Muddy Waters’ “Got My Mojo Working”, then ran off stage and let the crowd work themselves up to demanding an encore.

Dana ran back out onto the stage and brought the band back on in turn;

“On the drums – Amy West… On bass, groovy Jennifer Fisher…” she laughed as Jenn reappeared flipping the bird at Dana. “On guitar… Audrey McKeen!”

The crowd dutifully cheered.

“My name is Dana Park, we’re having such a great time tonight, we want to bring out a special guest for you.”

A more genuine cheer followed.

“He’s a great friend of ours, I’ve known him forever… Tom Nolan on the electric guitar!”

Tom strode out from the opposite side of the stage to Audrey, gave Dana a friendly hug, and waved to the crowd. He then gestured in acknowledgement of the band, and made a bow to them.

Son of a bitch. We don’t need the crowd whipping up for us – where were you for the last hour and a half?

Dana continued unaware of Audrey seething; “Tom wants us to do this thing called Love Ain’t A Love Song… We’ve never done this together, so it’ll either be great or a complete disaster…”.

From behind them they heard the click of drum sticks and Amy’s voice shouting “One, two” though “three” and “four” were overwhelmed by the fill she pounded out irrespective of the readiness of the group. That was standard for Amy – her attitude was that if you wanted to be in this band, you showed up to play. In her most polite moments, the rest was “bullshit”.

This is why drummers don’t get microphones.

Her thoughts returned to their guest. Dana had told them where Tom was going to fit in – playing rhythm and trading solos with Audrey. She would still play her riffs and fills through the verse and variations on the rhythm chords. She remained grumpy about the whole endeavour but this had placated her somewhat. For the end of the song, they’d just jam and call it on the fly.

What could possibly go wrong?

She had sized Tom up immediately. He wore a t-shirt bearing the cover art from “Dark Side of the Moon”, his hair was so short to be lacking anything that could be called a style, and his chin was covered in stubble. He had a face that was not unattractive, but wasn’t particularly memorable either. His body had more to recommend it – Tom was slim and had muscular arms. Audrey caught herself dwelling on them longer than she expected.

Who cares about his arms? He’s probably completely in love with himself. He’s a guitar player with a hit song and a cute British accent, I’m sure he has women falling all over him…

As the second chorus ended Dana turned to Tom and shouted for him to play the first solo. Audrey’s face returned to a scowl as the crowd cheered his first notes – though begrudgingly she had to admit that he had talent. He didn’t fall into the trap of trying to play too many notes too quickly, instead finding unexpected variations on common blues riffs.

As he finished his solo he turned from the audience towards the rest of the band and caught Audrey’s eye for a moment, shooting her a quick grin.

Keep smiling motherfucker, listen to this…

She prided herself on not relying on flashy “tricks” to impress an audience, to impress anyone for that matter, but there was a time and place for such things, and it was now. She began with some Van Halen style tapping, before playing a screaming, bended note which she held close to her amplifier in order to use the feedback to sustain it longer than naturally possible. She glanced across the stage as the note continued to ring out, to see Tom gleefully laughing.

Okay, so he has a cute smile, you can admit that and still be a feminist. 

She crossed behind Dana to play directly at Tom. She had done it subconsciously but she didn’t mind the feeling that it asserted her dominance within the pairing. Tom continued to smile charmingly back at her.

Is he smiling at the music or me?

Audrey’s solo transitioned back into Dana’s voice screaming the chorus, and she looked across at the rest of the band, who seemed to be enjoying themselves more than normal. Having a guest had lifted some of the pressure of the occasion from them and they could now take stock of where they were and how good a night they were having. Audrey smiled too, relaxing for the first time in the evening.

It must be the music. 

Dana came to the end of the chorus and called on Audrey again. Audrey signalled the band to go quiet and played a sparse solo for eight bars which Tom followed, mimicking the style. Dana gave them a “keep it going” signal and Audrey locked eyes with Tom to command his attention.

Alright hot-shot, let’s try this… 

She played a phrase which was open-ended enough that Tom could catch her drift, and widened her eyes as she ended it to indicate his turn. Fortunately he responded with a complementary riff, and they repeated the call-and-response pattern for the rest of the eight bar section. Dana interjected an ecstatic “whoo” as the band grew louder again to accompany another eight bars of Audrey alone, for which she took centre stage.

This is where I belong. 

Toward the end of her solo Tom appeared beside her and leaned up against Audrey so they were playing back-to-back.

This feels right – we need to play together more.

As his eight bars ended, the two of them simultaneously turned to face each other and locked eyes again, Audrey suddenly sporting a cheeky grin and Tom a wide-eyed smile.

Please be thinking what I’m thinking.

They began playing in unison, Audrey connected with Tom on a level that felt close to psychic. They could sense the other’s note choice before it happened and weave their parts around and alongside each other’s on the fly. That kind of symbiosis usually took years to develop, but they had it instantly. With a nod of the head or raise of an eyebrow they let each other know what they were intending on playing next. The two of them played with only a vague sense of the rest of the band around them, and absolutely no conception of the audience. They were simply playing together – no longer trying to one-up the other, but exploring their chemistry and perfectly complementing each other.

This isn’t just music. It doesn’t just happen. This means something.

The song ended with a classic “big rock ending”, taking the whole venue from an ecstatic climax, to silence from the band and deafening cheering from the audience. Tom mouthed an exhilarated “oh my god” before turning to accept the adulation of the crowd and walk off stage.

Audrey took her guitar off and flung it through the air to the off-stage area where her guitar tech may or may not have been waiting to catch the now-airborne axe. It didn’t seem terribly important to her in the moment, she had to catch Tom before he ran off backstage.

Well, if I’ve dinged it, it’ll make a great clip for YouTube…

She dashed across the stage, and caught up with Tom as he handed off his guitar to his assistant. She grabbed him by the shoulder and turned him around, the sound of the audience still ringing in their ears, and looked at him smiling back at her, still on a high.

Fuck it.

She grinned mischievously, put a hand on each side of his face and kissed him forcefully. She was surprised to find him immediately respond by wrapping his arms around her waist and pulling her close in to him.

She pulled away and mouthed to him; “Stay right here.”

Tom looked shell-shocked and smitten, but nodded “okay” back to her. Audrey grinned like a schoolgirl, and returned to the stage…